“LSU, it’s payback,” Chandler said. “We lost to them on the road and we want to beat them. It’s a revenge game, and we gotta come in and we know they’ll be ready to play against us. Our goal is to get the win.”
Both teams were feisty from the opening tip and had to be officially separated on at least three different instances. The Vols displayed an edge — like when Tennessee’s newfound enforcer Uros Plavsis shoved an LSU player under the hoop and after the play early in the first half — that’s been noticeably missing on numerous occasions so far this year.
The Vols started off hot and jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead mostly via the much-maligned Tennessee 3-point shot as Santiago Vescovi, Kennedy Chandler and Josiah James all hit at least one deep ball in the game’s first six minutes. LSU’s first-half offense looked a lot like Tennessee’s from the game in Baton Rouge as the Tigers missed at least their first six attempts from the field.
Tennessee still featured one of its typical Sahara-Desert like offensive droughts as the Vols scored just three points from the 8:24-mark to the 46-second mark of the game’s first period. LSU clawed its way back within one point before Plavsic and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield both hit layups in the half’s final minute to give the Vols a five-point halftime lead.
UT got out of the second-half gate quickly on another 8-0 run that was helped along by LSU following up its eight-turnover first half with six more giveaways in the second. But the Tiger’s full-court press gave the Vols absolute fits, which naturally translated into five second-half turnovers for Tennessee.
LSU made what seemed like a dozen straight layups around the five-minute mark to cut the Vols’ lead down to as few as six, but an emphatic Plavsic block that led to a Zakai Zeigler 3 on the other end basically sealed the game for Tennessee. Excuse the bit of foul language in the following video. My dad gets a bit excited at times 8^ )
Plavsic with a HUGE block and then a ZZ 3 on the other end.— RockyTopTalk (@RockyTopTalk) January 23, 2022
Warning for some, uh, colorful language from my dad here pic.twitter.com/jarIiia2I0
This block was Plavsic’s fifth career block in his more than 400 minutes.
Tennessee finished the game on a 13-5 run that included a Plavsic dunk and two, that’s right, TWO made free throws for the big Serbian. Just a note: Plavsic air-balled a free throw the last time these two teams played two weeks ago.
The Vols continued to struggle from the free-throw line, going a combined 10-18 in the game. This marks the fifth game in six chances that Tennessee’s shot worse-than 65 percent from the charity stripe and the 10th time this year that the percentage has been below 70. Just a bit further: the team’s shot above 80 percent just twice since November 26th. All that is, well, uh, discouraging.
Vescovi led the scoring charge for Tennessee with his 16 points on 5-11 shooting (all 11 attempts came from 3-point range). He also tied for the team-lead in rebounds with six and assists with five.
I can’t really say enough good things about Plavsic. He followed up his former-best game as a Vol against Vanderbilt when he had 13 points and seven rebounds with his now best-game as a Vol with 12 points, six boards and arguably the defining moment of the contest in that block in the second half. His toughness tonight was contagious.
Tennessee still needs more from Olivier Nkamhoua as he went scoreless with four rebounds and three turnovers. The rest of its post players were better, though, considering Brandon Huntley-Hatfeld had six boards in 15 minutes, while John Fulkerson added eight points in his 14 minutes.
The Vols stay undefeated at home and move to 13-5 for the season. Florida comes to town next Wednesday in a game that will have SEC Tournament seeding ramifications, as the Gators currently sit just one game back of the Vols in the conference standings.